From the Algarve
Two major wetland reserves in southwest Spain, namely the Marismas del Odiel and the famous Doñana National Park are conveniently close to make day tours from the eastern Algarve perfectly feasible.
The Paraje Natural Marismas del Odiel is a maze of inter-tidal channels weaving through an expanse of salt marsh on the western bank of the River Odiel. Over the years, large sections of the salt marsh have been converted into commercial salt pans, yet this man-made habitat has proved equally attractive to waterbirds. Small stands of Stone Pines add variety to the environment and a far-reaching causeway (El Espigón) points out into the Atlantic Ocean providing an ideal seabird watch-point.
This protected area has breeding Eurasian Spoonbills, Grey and Purple Herons, Black-winged Stilts and Kentish Plovers. Greater Flamingos breed irregularly but are always present. Spring and autumn passages bring hosts of waders when twenty species in a day is not an unreasonable target. Western Marsh Harriers breed and Western Ospreys pass through on migration. Winter brings a host of wildfowl including Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck and Tufted Duck, while rafts of Common Scoter and small parties of Red-breasted Mergansers sometimes gather on the sea. Common Firecrest and Eurasian Penduline Tit are worth searching for at this time of year. Other interesting species include Cory’s Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Red-knobbed Coot (occasional), Eurasian Stone-curlew, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Cetti’s Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike and Iberian Magpie.
Doñana National Park is arguably the most important wetland reserve in Europe and for the birder is one of the world’s natural wonders. Set in the delta of the River Guadalquivir, expanses of salt marsh have been transformed into paddy fields and millennia of alluvial deposits provide agricultural land of the highest quality. Coastal sand dunes protect the low-lying delta from the sea and provide a barrier enabling the growth of sizable trees, mostly Stone Pines. In winter, water lies to form the famous marismas, vast areas of shallow water that in the heat of the summer are remodelled to leave a parched landscape of bare earth so dry that cracks form a mosaic on the land. At the height of summer, after the breeding season, birds are at their most challenging but for the rest of the year, provided the rains have deposited their lifegiving water, they are everywhere one looks and in profusion.
Doñana National Park boasts an even more impressive avifauna, its huge egretries being especially eye-catching and its raptors forever in view. Breeding ducks include handsome Red-crested Pochard and the sought-after Marbled Duck and White-headed Duck. Red-knobbed Coot is primarily an African species but it has a precarious toe-hold in southwest Iberia, and there is a realistic chance of finding it in Doñana when water-levels are favourable. Over the marismas Collared Pratincoles and Whiskered Terns forage incessantly. The woods are filled with songs of Common Nightingales and the practiced ear will catch the plaintive call of the Iberian Chiffchaff. Among the herons, there are Little Bitterns and Squacco Herons to be found while Great Egrets continue to expand though not to the same extent as the explosion in Glossy Ibis numbers. In winter, Greylag Geese and Common Cranes arrive from their breeding grounds in northern Europe. Doñana is simply paradise for birds and birdwatchers. Other interesting species include Ferruginous Duck, Black Stork, Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Iberian Imperial Eagle, Western Swamphen, Marsh Sandpiper and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
Tours to these two protected areas take in all its special habitats including the sea, beaches, dunes, marismas, reedbeds, rice fields, mudflats, salt marshes, sand banks, salt pans, lakes, ponds, rivers, Stone Pine woods, oak woodland, farmland, scrub and pasture.
Our tours to Southwest Spain are necessarily a full day, although we can arrange two-day (or longer) tours on request.
Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck, Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Cory’s Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Greater Flamingo, Black Stork, White Stork, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Eurasian Bittern, Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Northern Gannet, Western Osprey, Black-winged Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Booted Eagle, Iberian Imperial Eagle, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Red Kite, Black Kite, Water Rail, Western Swamphen, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Crane, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, European Golden Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Eurasian Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Little Stint, Green Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Collared Pratincole, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, European Turtle Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Common Cuckoo, Western Barn Owl, Eurasian Scops Owl, Little Owl, Short-eared Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Pallid Swift, Common Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Wryneck, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Iberian Magpie, European Crested Tit, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Woodlark, Eurasian Skylark, Crested Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Cetti’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Iberian Chiffchaff, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotless Starling, Bluethroat, Common Nightingale, Spanish Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Western Yellow Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Water Pipit, European Serin and Common Reed Bunting.
Full Day Private Tour
- 1 person – 310 €
- 2 persons – 370 €
- 3 persons – 430 €
- 4 persons – 490 €
(+ 60 € per additional person)
Our tours to Southwest Spain include pick up and drop off from Faro eastwards, although by special arrangement can be organized from other locations west of Faro. From west of Faro, day trips to southwest Spain are impracticable and we suggest a two (or more) day tour should be considered.